WE DID IT!!
We were very, very scared and excited but at 2.53pm today, Helen and Gareth jumped out of a plane 12,000ft above Lake Taupo for the fastest 45 seconds of their lives!
It was something we'd been mulling over for weeks. We knew we wanted to do it, we just needed the bottle! We decided this morning that we were not to think about it too much, we should just do it! We were in Taupo, which is the Mecca of Skydiving in New Zealand. It's also one of the cheapest but with a great safety record!
When we got there we started to have doubts! We said we'd like to go up as soon as possible but when she said "How's about HALF AN HOUR!?" we jumped at the chance. It was a case of getting over your fears and getting kitted up!
We got our jump suits on and the blood started to pump! Then it was a case of -Get in the plane- and we were off down the runway! Now Helen and I are not great flyers, but that was the last thing on our minds.
Let's hear Helen's account of the story:
".. I sat down in front of the guy who was taking me up (my tandem partner) and he started tugging at my harness to make sure it was all good. Then the camera guy got in front of me and started pointing his gadgets at me! Then the plane took off!!! As the plane rose into the sky I thought "THIS IS IT.". I couldn't turn around to see everyone in the back of the plane, so I could just hear background chatting. The cam guy opposite me just started asking me questions.. chatting to me and stuff.. asking me where I was from and stuff. I think he was trying to calm me down! I remember just looking out of the window and think "ohh that's nice!". Completely forgetting that I was going to jump out of it. I kept thinking "I've GOT to do this". Then the door open and we all just looked out. I remember thinking "F**k". I don't really use bad language, but if ever the occasion arose - then this was it! The first person jumped out and I remember realising that I was next. "I'm next... I'm next... oh no!!". The guy who I was joined to (tandem partner) told me to shuffle towards the door and to sit there and dangle my legs out. I thought we were going to have a countdown before we jumped but the second I dangled my legs out, we were out of the plane. I had no time to prep myself!
Just... the air... the air is rushing past you. It's so cold! You can feel your face being pushed back. Then you start looking around. You get used to the freefall and notice what's below you... All you can hear is the air passing you. When the parachute opens, your legs fly up in front of you. It feels like you're coming to a complete halt! Then you just dangle there and glide down, twisting and turning, having a good old chat with blokey as well! He asked me how long I'd been in NZ and what we were doing next! Telling him about the whole RTW trip and he was loving it!
As we approached the ground he told be to put my knees up by my chest and when my feet were on the ground start walking. I did that... and fell over on the ground! Pretty relieved to be on the ground! Totally buzzing from it. He took the harness off and shook my hand, asked me how it was then said "Well done!". Then I heard someone shout "HELEN!!!", so I ran over and it was Gareth who had just landed! I gave him a huge hug and that was that.
It was absolutely amazing. Totally worth it - do it!"
Gareth agrees and this is his account:
"As I jumped in the plane I knew that there was no turning back. The plane was very cramped and I remember trying to remain cool as it took off. I looked around and couldn't make out if people were really nervous or just quiet! The tandem guys have to do at least 1000 jumps before they can take you out so they were just doing their day job - they looked very calm indeed! All the tandem guys have altimeters on their wrists so they can see what height they are at, so I kept an eye on our altitude. I knew we were jumping at 12,000ft so as I watched the altitude go up I knew I had to hold it together! at 8,000ft things started to kick in inside me as the plane got higher and higher. Then at 12,000ft the side door came open. It was very sureal. I knew Helen was jumping before me so I hoped that she was going to hold herself together and be strong! I knew she'd be fine! The first guy lept... well I didn't see that, he just wasn't sitting there anymore, I thought "where did he go?" and the realisation that this was happening NOW started to hit me. It was then that the adrenaline started to fully drive. Then Helen was by the door... and she was gone. I was next. "This is totally insane!" I thought - to see Helen go was very strange. I almost felt sorry for her! But then I was by the door, looking down at the airport, town and river below. I kept think about the iminence of the moment and realised that I was suddenly totally shit scared!! There was a guy on the wing of the plane taking my photo, but I don't remember that. It's like being at the top of a 12,000ft rollercoaster looking down. Then. BANG. GONE.
Then things happen very fast. The fear turns to total panic as you first slow down (the plane is doing 200 km/h then you fall. Real fast. Within 10 seconds I was dropping at 120 mph towards the ground. The guy told me to hold my arms out and look down. Although I just wanted it to end it was incredible. Amazing. I was totally at the mercy of this guy, the elements and our parachute, but I wasn't thinking about that. Then I clocked my hands. SOOO COLD! I didn't have gloves on and after about 30 seconds my hands were becoming unbearable. I knew I just had to hold on. Then about 8 seconds later I felt an incredible braking force and I remember thinking "ahhhh, this is what it must feel like for a parachute to open!" and then... "YES! I'm still alive and the parachute worked!"
As I slowed down all the noise of the air rushing by you fades away and you're left with the gentle sound of your parachute lighly flapping in the air. You look down and really start to take in what's below. Still at 4,000ft, I was high enough to really appreciate the scenery. I remember thinking that it was the closest I'd get to being a bird - and how bloody lucky they were! I started to babble crap to the tandem guy... I couldn't help it!! I was very worked up... even by my standards!
Then, as I came in to land, I realised how fast we were dropping!! "Woooah woah woah!". But the landing was perfect, I came in walking. I looked around for Helen then gave her a huge hug. I then felt the biggest feeling of excitment and exhaltation I've ever felt. It was such a rush. I felt really really proud that I'd faced my fears head on and had told them to clear off!
I also felt very relieved that I was still alive!"
*** We're really sorry if what we've written today is complete mumbo jumbo or if it has lots of gramatical or spelling errors. We only did this 4 hours ago and we're all over the place.
We'll be fine again soon. Chris and Heather jumped yesterday - so we'll meet them tonight and exchange stories.
Lastly - please don't feel offended if we hadn't told you we were going to do this. It's a big suprise to most of you we know. We really didn't know if we were going to do it, right up until the last minute! We also wanted to think it through in our own way and work through our fears together.
We hope you're all very proud of us (as we are!!)!!!!!!
See you all soon
Enjoy the photos... they cost a bomb!
Lots of love Gareth and Helen x x x